The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Metaphors, puns and rambling out of the fog

My son was in tears the other day because he accidentally erased his profile on his Nintendo DS game Lego Battles. He explained to my mother, who couldn't understand the problem this presented, that it meant that everything he'd accomplished, done, overcome, figured out, and scored over the past month of playing this game was gone and he had to start over with a blank slate.

"Exactly!" I thought as I listened to his wailing.

My slate feels so blank sometimes, because I've gone from believing that there were a very few things that I could absolutely count on to believing that impermanence is possibly the only thing I can count on and that despite all indications there is no way to have any certainty about the future at all. This perspective, while feeling less delusional than past certainties, also sends me into a bit of an existential freak-out. It feels too big and scary and lonely for it to be just me and my higher power. I admit it: I want something to cling to. I want to know something for sure. "I want to be able to count on something," I told my therapist.

She gently suggested that the Buddhist perspective on this (because she knows I swing that way) might be along the lines of finding gratitude for the present moment, and I realized (again) that this is where peace is for me. Since I believe that impermanence is the only constant and the future is unknowable, peace has no other place to wait for me aside from the present moment. Little comfort as I sat in my therapist's office, but my brain could grasp it and begin to make sense of the world again. Okay, so as my mind swished down the toilet of past pain and fear about the future, I had forgotten about staying in the present. But now I was remembering again. The cold fingers of my dark confusion began to loosen their grip.

The bumper sticker I get out of this experience: There is nothing good at the bottom of the toilet.

I don't feel completely alone, actually. I have girlfriends whom I still believe I can count on to be who I think they are. But in my relationship I don't have that sense of security any more. I can count on Husband 99.9% when it comes to our son. But when it comes to me...when it comes to counting on him to take me into consideration when he does something...that's where I'm afraid. I believed in this 100% before and got burned.

I told my therapist that sometimes it feels like Husband is a hot stove that I'm afraid to touch again. As we talked I realized that my subconscious assumption has been that the stove would burn me again if I touched it. But my conscious mind doesn't think that. I'm not afraid that Husband would be able to betray me again the way he did before. I have training about stoves that I didn't have before! So it was a good opening for me to realize that I'm not trying to touch a hot stove again. I'm just trying to touch the stove to see what it feels like now, and I'm not reaching out unprotected. More importantly, I need to remind myself (again) what I realized more than a year ago: Because he's in recovery, Husband probably isn't a stove anymore.

I've been caught up (again) trying to make sense of things. (Perhaps this cycle of "agains" is something I just have to surrender to.) I want things to make sense. But the lying Husband did is something that will never make sense to me. How do you so deeply betray someone you love? I can fantasize about it, but when it comes down to it, I could never go through with it. I'd have to hate him in order to lie to him the way he did to me. That's how I'm built. And he is built differently. And now we're both working on our defective parts, rebuilding our engines. They will always be different engines, but hopefully they will work better than they did before and we'll be able to finish out this road trip together.

I think a lot of this circling back is because there's anger and resentment I haven't fully expressed and it's surfacing and that's a good thing. Those things are hard for me because I never learned about openly expressing those feelings as a child. But now's my chance.

My friend recently wrote on her blog about a palm tree outside her window that was cut down, and how it took only minutes to destroy something that had taken years to grow. I told Husband this is how I feel about our relationship, and why I think it's sometimes such a struggle. The tree that was my understanding of the world has been cut down and there's no putting it back. He nodded and put his arms around me.

Replant. Give water and light. (Perhaps some therapy and the love and support of friends.) Wait. And don't lose faith that a big tree can grow from a little nut.

Later I asked him if there was anything we needed to talk about from the arguments and discussions we'd had over the past few days. "I'm afraid to tell you this, because I don't want you to feel responsible for my feelings, but when you say you can't count on anything I feel terrible. I know that you can't know anything absolutely for sure, but I'm going to do my best to be someone you can count on for the rest of my life."

Just when I need it most, my higher power chimes in. I'm both surprised and not surprised at all.

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